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Ottawa, ON • Canada • 15 Years Old • Male
Today I'm going to venture away from my usual niche of statistics and into the mysterious and compelling realm of prediction. That's right, my usual calculator gives way to a crystal ball, my mathematical approach gives way to voodoo. So I'll tell you what I see the standings being in the Northeast during the gap between regular season and playoff hockey. Let's start.

1. Boston Bruins

The Bruins are the favourite to repeat as Northeast champs, and I see no reason for them not to. They have an impressive mix of offense prowess, defensive responsibility and intimidating physicality in their top-6, headlined by high-flying Tyler Seguin looking to improve on his 67 point output and former Olympian Patrice Bergeron coming off a Selke trophy. On defence, they're led by captain Zdeno Chara and his partner Dennis Seidenberg, who respectively clocked in 25 and 24 minutes of TOI a game last year. The only question mark lies in goal, as former Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas has taken a year off to focus on family, friends and faith. Tuukka Rask's performance in his first legitimate starting role will dictate how the Bruins fare against the other elite teams of the East.

2. Ottawa Senators

One of the feel-good stories of the 2011-2012 season, the Senators managed to snag the final playoff spot only a year after finishing 26th in the league. Their offense is led by Jason Spezza, who had a fantastic season under coach Paul Maclean. Spezza's highly competent supporting staff, made up most notably of Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek, will welcome the potential arrival of rookies Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfververg. The defence features Norris winner Erik Karlsson, who managed 78 points last season. Veteran Chris Phillips, sophomore Jared Cowen and newcomer Marc Methot will make up the rest of the top 4. Craig Anderson has been good for the Senators since they traded for him, and Ottawa can rely on either Ben Bishop or Robin Lehner if Anderson stumbles. Unless they are ravaged by injuries, I expect Ottawa to once again be a playoff team.

3. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last year, and this year they will once again be in the hunt. Their offense is led by captain and hometown favourite Jason Pominville, but also features Austrian sniper Thomas Vanek. Joining the offensive charts will be former Dallas Star Steve Ott, whom the Sabres traded for in an effort to increase the grit in their top 6. Youngsters Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson should continue to develop. The issue for the Sabres might be scoring goals, but it will likely not be allowing them. Fresh of his EA Sports ranking of 92, Ryan Miller will be playing behind a competent, albeit unspectacular defensive unit that features Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera, among others. Buffalo is another bubble team in a tightly packed Eastern conference playoff picture.

4. Montreal Canadiens

Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Montreal, the franchise once symbolizing success in hockey, stumbled to a terrible statistical season last year, finishing last in the Eastern Conference. However, this is reason for hope of improvement. Montreal played bad hockey for stretches, but they were also very unlucky last season. Injuries had a huge impact on the team, as did the incredible amount of shootout losses. The Habs will once again rely on their first-line of Erik Cole, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty for offense this year. After that, they can hope for a bounce-back year from PK specialist Tomas Plekanec and the continued development of Lars Eller, who showed flashes of brilliance last year. PK Subban and Josh Gorges will lead the D, and will welcome back Andrei Markov for (hopefully) an injury-free season. Look for hard-hitting sophomore Alexei Emelin to continue to make an impact. Carey Price should continue to put up impressive numbers and slowly earn his starting spot for Canada at the Sochi Games.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

While this ranking may be a bit biased, I fully believe the Leafs will once again have a bad season. I'm not just saying that because I'm a Habs fan, I'm saying that because the Leafs' roster doesn't encourage a lot of optimism. After Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, it really doesn't look at that great. The Leafs lack a true first-line center and their bottom 6 lacks scoring ability. Their second line looks alright, but until James van Riemsdyk proves he can handle playing in Toronto, I'll be skeptical. Their D is offensively inclined, and lacks character and grit. Phaneuf is a tad overrated, but that was cancelled out by Jake Gardiner's impressive rookie season last year. In goal, 'Optimus Reims' was playing well until he was injured by Brian Gionta's bottom and it remains to be seen if he can bounce back. Ben Scrivens will be a serviceable backup after a solid Calder Cup run with the Marlies. However, there are still far too many holes in this lineup to even consider them to be playoff calibre.

I'll be back sometime soon with my predictions for the Atlantic division.

Thanks for Reading!
Filed Under:   Northeast   Boston   Ottawa   Buffalo   Montreal   Toronto  
September 10, 2012 1:14 PM ET | Delete
Joke. Habs haven't improved enough to get out of the basement. Prust doesn't make you better than the Leafs.
September 10, 2012 3:28 PM ET | Delete
September 10, 2012 3:30 PM ET | Delete
I agree with you when looking at these Teams. Being a Habs Fan, of course, makes me wonder what happens in the case of another serious injury like Markov? We just don't have the depth. We will work in a rookie of course somewhere along the line. Thank goodness we resigned Travis Moen.Joe 4546
September 10, 2012 4:26 PM ET | Delete
trolleytracks: The Habs have improved for the upcoming season in that they will start a healthy team. They also got VERY unlucky last year. Despite finishing 19th in goals for and 14th in goals against they finished 28th in the league. Those anomalies won't happen again. Looking over the two rosters, the Habs is better than the Leafs, and that's why I put them above them.
September 10, 2012 4:29 PM ET | Delete
Bulldog45: I hope he doesn't, but if Markov does end up suffering another injury that would make him miss significant time, they could call up either Beaulieu or Tinordi from Hamilton, depending on how their respective seasons are going. If he stays healthy though, Subban-Gorges and Markov-Emelin isn't a bad top 4.
September 10, 2012 8:25 PM ET | Delete
Flip flop Montreal and Toronto and that would be a more accurate depiction of the division. I could also see Buffalo jumping ahead of Ottawa if Miller has another great year and the added grit and development of youth at forward comes through. It takes a dilusional habs fan to think Prust is a big addition that improves them significantly and Markov will play enough games to make a difference. Just enjoy the basement and the chance to draft MacKinnon first overall next year.
September 10, 2012 10:35 PM ET | Delete
1. Boston2. Buffalo3. Ottawa4. Montreal5. Toronto
September 10, 2012 11:46 PM ET | Delete
both habs and leafs miss the playoffs by a decent margin
September 11, 2012 4:38 PM ET | Delete
If you compare the Leafs and the Habs, the offenses are very similar, with the slight edge to Montreal. While Montreal has the best defenseman of the two teams, Toronto slightly edges them in that department while Montreal has a lot of good D prospects. In goal, however, it's no question Montreal's advantage. That's why I put them higher.
September 11, 2012 5:47 PM ET | Delete
September 12, 2012 2:33 PM ET | Delete
The Leafs had the 10th best offense last year, the Habs 19th... that doesn't equal advantage Montreal on offense. That's a third of the league between the two. That's not even close. Truthfully, these two teams are pretty close to each other. The Leafs have a considerable edge offensively, the Habs in net.
September 12, 2012 5:30 PM ET | Delete
A lot of people are underestimating the Habs it seems.
September 12, 2012 6:37 PM ET | Delete
A-Mar: That is true, and while I was just judging based on the rosters the stats cannot be overlooked. Montreal missed Gionta and Markov for almost the whole year, which equals about 90 points between the two. Toronto also enjoyed a career year from Joffrey Lupul. Another big thing was projected point increases. The Leafs don't have any forwards that are expected to increase their point totals, the Habs have a couple in Eller and Leblanc.
September 12, 2012 6:39 PM ET | Delete
_Zippy_: I agree. The team isn't that far away from the playoffs. All they really need is a 2nd line LW and Beaulieu/Tinordi to take over top-4 spots.
September 12, 2012 7:27 PM ET | Delete
Bruins first place. Agreed. But Ottawa and Buffalo, at least to me, aren't really that solid. As everyone knows, injuries killed the Habs last year. I'm saying Habs in second, by a point, carried by an amazing year for Price, Pac and Markov and surprise surprise, a healthy Gionta nets 32 this year.
September 12, 2012 9:21 PM ET | Delete
kingrichards: After the Bruins, it's a crapshoot. That would be best-case scenario for the Habs. While I hope that happens, I don't think it will. However I do believe Montreal will exceed expectations this year, and at the very least challenge for a playoff spot. Price and Pacioretty will have very good years, if Markov can not be afraid of contact and play like he played a few years ago (big if) we'll be a lot closer. I expect a healthy Gionta to score 25-27 goals.
September 12, 2012 11:03 PM ET | Delete
MontrealTheTime: Agree. It's a crapshoot. We are pretty much on the same page. Who knows what will happen next year - look at L.A. last year.P.S.: no s please. kingrichard.
September 13, 2012 9:04 PM ET | Delete
Exactly. Any team that makes it into the playoffs can get hot and have a chance at winning it all. Look at Montreal's run 2 years ago. And apologies for the spelling mistake.
September 17, 2012 2:45 AM ET | Delete
September 18, 2012 12:43 AM ET | Delete
September 20, 2012 5:29 PM ET | Delete
i got no love for toronto, but mtl is still the worst team in the division....unless price carries u on his back.
September 22, 2012 12:14 PM ET | Delete
I disagree with your final two placements. I don't see how Montreal has improved to leave the last spot. And I'm curious who the best defenseman is that was mentioned? You can't mean Markov...he hasn't played in years...Subban? Maybe someday, but certainly not now...
September 22, 2012 2:29 PM ET | Delete
clarkyduster: I'd take Subban over any other D on both teams, not just for the future but the way he's playing right now.
September 22, 2012 10:59 PM ET | Delete
That's understandable. I disagree, but respectively. Subban is a good player and I expect him to improve in the future.
September 30, 2012 9:31 PM ET | Delete
If Reim plays good, the leafs may come back to the Playoffs
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